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PASSAGE OF CALIFORNIA DESERT PROTECTION ACT WILL YIELD CONSERVATION, ECONOMIC BENEFITS, NPCA TELLS SENATE

PASSAGE OF CALIFORNIA DESERT PROTECTION ACT WILL YIELD CONSERVATION,
 ECONOMIC BENEFITS, NPCA TELLS SENATE
 WASHINGTON, April 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Calling passage of the California Desert Protection Act "a top priority," the National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) today urged the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, National Parks and Forests to pass what NPCA called "one of the most important pieces of public lands legislation to be debated since the Alaska Lands Act."
 Paul C. Pritchard, president of NPCA, praised the bill's sponsors in Congress and commended citizens around the country who have backed the legislation. "They have courageously advanced a vision for the California Desert that will preserve its fragile, irreplaceable qualities for generations to come," Pritchard told the committee. "In addition, we believe that these new national parks would provide a sustainable economic base that would be of tremendous benefit to California and the West."
 The proposed legislation (S. 21 in the Senate and H.R. 2929, which has passed in the House) would expand the Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Monuments and upgrade them to national park status and would add a new Mojave national park. Protecting these areas as national parks would preserve a wealth of natural and cultural resources, while protecting them from uses that are rapidly destroying wilderness and habitat for plants and animal species.
 Tourism, already a growth industry in the California Desert, will be bolstered by enactment of the California Desert Protection Act, Pritchard explained. Unlike mining, grazing and other uses that have a limited future because they depend on finite resources, tourism in the new national parks "would continue to be a sustainable -- and growing -- economy," he said.
 Since 1985, visitation at Joshua Tree National Monument has increased by 69 percent. During the same time period, Death Valley has seen an increase of 27 percent, and is currently experiencing its highest visitation year on record. "Based on conservative estimates, we will see a 25 percent increase in visitation by the year 2000 -- or 600,000 more visitors to the three areas designated as national parks under the California Desert Protection Act," Pritchard said. The National Park Service estimates that each visitor spends $50-75 per day when they visit a national park. "If we use the conservative $50 figure, this translates to an additional $30 million per year in new direct tourism revenues," Pritchard pointed out.
 "While economic development should never be the primary reason for establishing national parks, it is only fair to recognize the favorable economic impacts that national parks have," he concluded. "Over the long term, these benefits will match and probably exceed any economic benefits that would be derived from keeping desert lands under multiple-use management."
 The National Parks and Conservation Association is America's only private, non-profit citizens' association dedicated to promoting the protection, enhancement and public understanding of the National Park System. Founded in 1919, NPCA now has more than 285,000 members.
 -0- 4/30/92
 /CONTACT: Kathy Westra of the National Parks and Conservation Association, 202-223-6722, ext. 121/ CO: National Parks and Conservation Association ST: District of Columbia, California IN: SU: LEG


MH -- DC014 -- 4943 04/30/92 12:37 EDT
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Date:Apr 30, 1992
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